Fewer Eagles Not a Cause for Concern

Illinois – Fewer bald eagles were counted during an annual mid-winter survey in Illinois. But organizers of the survey are not alarmed.

Illinois Audubon Society Executive Director Tom Clay says it's best to look at survey numbers from a multi-year period rather than just a single year.

"That long-term data lets science start to speak for what is happening in the natural world," says Clay.

Clay says weather conditions made it difficult for surveyors to reach the locations they normally check every year. In addition, it's possible the weather forced eagles to head elsewhere to look for food. Both of those factors might have contributed to the lower numbers this year.

The Illinois Audubon Society found 1,185 eagles in Illinois this winter. The number was 3,030 in 2009, 4,292 in 2008, 1,920 in 2007, and 2,922 in 2006.

This winter's survey was conducted between December 30, 2009 and January 13, 2010.

Clay is confident the number of bald eagles is increasing, even though the count came up with a lower number this winter.

"People call the Illinois Audubon Society and they say 'Hey, we want to go look at bald eagles somewhere. Where do we go?' And I always tell folks to look up, because any more around the state of Illinois it's just not uncommon on any of our watersheds," says Clay.

73% of the eagles counted during the survey were found along the Mississippi River. 19% were found along the Illinois River.

Surveyors also conducted counts along the Kaskaskia and Wabash Rivers as well as Crab Orchard Lake, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area, and Carlyle Lake.